Karvonen : the personalization of politics

6303 mots 26 pages
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The Personalization of Politics
What does research tell us so far, and what further research is in order? Lauri Karvonen Department of Political Science Åbo Akademi FI-20500 Åbo, Finland lauri.karvonen@abo.fi Paper prepared for the 4th ECPR Conference, Pisa 6-8 September 2007 Section: The Quality of European Political Elites Panel: Elite Success and Failure Appraised

Introduction: objective and scope

While most authors would argue that the personalization of politics is a typical feature of contemporary democracies, the phenomenon itself is anything but new. Quite the contrary: in his studies of the historical development of social and political orders, Max Weber identified “charismatic authority” as one of the three main forms of political legitimacy (1957). Moreover, studies of the early phases of representative democracy have emphasized that political representation largely centered on local notables rather than nationally identifiable collective interests and loyalties (Manin 1997, 202-203). In fact, it may very well be argued that politics in its pre-democratic forms was much more personalized than it is today. Those who point to an increased personalization of contemporary politics naturally do not use these broad historical perspectives as points of comparison. Rather, the argument is based on a comparison with the heyday of class-based, collective political organization. The industrial society that peaked something like half a century ago in the West was characterized by parties based on the divisions between clearly identifiable socio-economic or cultural groups in society. Parties and ideologies were an expression of the perceived interests of these social segments, and political identities, preferences and choices were largely a function of citizens’ affiliation to such groups. With the transformation and weakening of these fundamental social structures, forces other than collective loyalties and identities have increasingly come to condition

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